Personal Finance

How Much Are You Spending on Junk?

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In America, we spend more money on consumer goods than any other country on the planet. Somewhere along the way, we’ve pinned our happiness on stuff; the unhealthy, the unnecessary, and the unimportant — aka junk. So do you know how much you’re spending on junk?

Unhealthy Junk

If it doesn’t come from the ground, grow on a tree, or come out of a tap, it’s probably not healthy. Americans spend billions of dollars on fast food, processed foods and sugary beverages every year. Rerouted, this money could end world hunger.

We spend so much on unhealthy eating that approximately 70% of Americans are overweight, and 36% are obese. Obesity is the leading the cause of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory problems and numerous other illnesses.

Sugary beverages fill an entire aisle at local super markets; the choices are endless. Flavored waters, sports drinks, energy drinks and sodas have become so commonplace that people don’t even realize how much money they spend on these unhealthy beverages. Where I live in New Jersey, most people have access to every frappuccino, cappuccino and mocha latte that their hearts could desire. I have yet to meet an individual who, as part of their daily routine, does not purchase at least one beverage outside of the home.

Americans are addicted to convenience.  Breakfast doesn’t have to come in a cereal or frozen waffle box with a nutritional value of close to zero. Ask any mother what a “Lunchable” is and she will know exactly what you are talking about; a prepackaged, processed meat with a roll, sugary drink and candy bar.

By implementing a few small changes you can stop spending your money on unhealthy junk. Pack your lunch!  What you put in a brown bag for you and your children will be cheaper and healthier than most prepackaged, restaurant or school lunches. When it comes to beverages, since our morning java is often non-negotiable, I’ll offer an alternative recommendation: eliminate all other high-calorie, sugar-filled energy drinks from your budget. Drink water! We all have a tap. Filters are cheap. Fill up a reusable container with icy cold water with a squeeze of lemon and you will have just given yourself a refreshing healthy beverage.

Unnecessary Junk

Have you ever watched the television show, “Hoarding: Buried Alive”? This is of course extreme, but how many of us feel we are so buried in our stuff, that we can’t find what we are looking for half the time, or operate in a state of complete chaos on most days.

When we spend our money on junk, although it may provide temporary gratification, it often just creates clutter, and drains our bank accounts. When we buy things that are unnecessary it hinders our ability to either buy things that are necessary or buy things that may bring a greater sense of well-being to ourselves and our children.

Unimportant Junk

For something to be important it has to be of “great significance or value.” The opposite of important is “something insignificant or trivial.” Do you spend your money on junk or do you spend your money on exactly what’s most important to you?

Take the time to think about where you really want your money to go. My husband and I are very aware of what is important to us when it comes to spending our money.

In addition to money we allocate to make the world a better place, we spend money on outdoor activities. My husband is an avid fisherman. Therefore, a portion of our money goes to this passion. Our children go to summer camp all day for eight weeks. My children will often joke with me and say, “You just want to get rid of us.” But in reality, it is because I want their summer days to be filled with adventure, fresh air, good friends, swimming lessons and happy memories.

Most of us operate in an environment of limited resources and abundant choices.  The choices we make constrain us or free us, bring us great joy or great stress. Take the time to think about where you really want your money to go, then take the appropriate actions to make it happen.

Image: iStockphoto

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